MLB Power Rankings: Athletics stay in first, Braves begin to climb

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For the third straight week, the A's are atop the Power Rankings, and for the second consecutive week, the Brewers follow right behind. The top-five is a close battle right now, as the Angels and Dodgers are separated by just one point at third and fourth place, respectively. The Tigers, meanwhile, have surged from eighth to fifth.

They're No. 1: Athletics. It was a relatively easy week but another successful one for Oakland, which went 4-1 and rebounded from a 10-1 loss to the Mets in its first game of the week to win its next four by scoring an average of seven runs per game. Now things get really interesting: The A’s open a three-game set in Detroit against the AL Central-leading Tigers on Monday, return home on Thursday for a four-game series with the AL East-leading Blue Jays and then play their Bay Area rivals for four straight games, with two games in Oakland and two in San Francisco. Eleven games in 11 days against three teams that enter this week tied or alone atop their respective divisions will be as difficult a gantlet as any club faces all year.

Cellar Dweller: Diamondbacks. There is something to look forward to this week for Arizona fans: They won’t have to watch the Diamondbacks play in person. Kirk Gibson’s crew is an inexplicable 15-30 at Chase Field this season, and after going 3-6 on their most recent homestand, the D-backs won two of three in San Diego to kickstart a three-city, nine-game road trip that continues this week with series in Pittsburgh and Atlanta. Arizona then has only three home games left before the All-Star break, and by the time it opens the unofficial second half in the desert on July 18, it could look very different. Several D-backs, including pitcher Brandon McCarthy and perhaps even general manager Kevin Towers, have been rumored to be looking at a change of address in the coming weeks.

Biggest Riser: Braves. A 6-1 week helped Atlanta move from No. 14 to No. 8 and, more importantly, back into first place in the NL East. Not that the club had fallen very far: The Braves haven't been more than two games out all season, but a four-game sweep of the Phillies – their first in Philadelphia in 50 years – allowed them to take a half-game lead heading into Monday. The most impressive part of the organization’s week, though, came from its Class A Lynchburg Hillcats, which tossed combined no-hitters on consecutive days.

Biggest Faller: Cardinals. The last seven days were as baffling for St. Louis as its season has been to date. The Cards scored 22 runs at Coors Field while taking two of three, then were held to four runs total while losing three of four in an NLCS rematch with the Dodgers in Los Angeles. Manager Mike Matheny will have the additional headache of filling out the NL All-Star roster this week, but his bigger task is getting his defending league champions righted now that their NL Central deficit has matched a season-high at 6 1/2 games.

A few words about the...

Giants: Three weeks ago, San Francisco was on top of our Power Rankings, with the most wins in baseball and an 8 1/2-game lead over the Dodgers in the NL West. But as June turns to July, everything has fallen apart in for the Giants. After going a wretched 1-6 last week, including a four-game sweep by Cincinnati, San Francisco has blown its entire NL West advantage and has fallen out of the top-five in our rankings, landing at No. 6. Injuries, in particular Angel Pagan's balky back, have limited the offense, while the continued difficulties of Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum (no-hitter aside) are hampering the rotation. And in the bullpen, Sergio Romo's recent struggles (15 earned runs in his last 15 innings) has cost him the closer's job.

Mariners: Seattle may trail the Athletics by 7 1/2 games in the AL West, but it isn't fading away. The Mariners went 4-2 last week, picking up series wins against Boston and Cleveland, to improve to 17-10 in the month of June. No player has been more instrumental to that success than Seattle's longtime ace, Felix Hernandez, who is having arguably his greatest season. Hernandez's 2.10 ERA, 179 ERA+, 1.96 FIP, 9.6 strikeout-per-nine ratio, 1.5 walks-per-nine ratio and 6.23 strikeout-to-walk ratio are all career-highs, and he leads the American League in WHIP at 0.92 and the majors in innings pitched at 128 1/3. Last week, he threw an absolute gem against Cleveland, shutting out the Indians for eight innings on just one hit while striking out nine and walking three. The resulting Game Score of 86 was his best of the season.

Rangers: As one AL West team rises, another keeps falling. A 2-4 week dropped Texas to No. 24 in the rankings and leaves it a whopping 14 games back of Oakland in the AL West. Injuries have been the biggest reason for the Rangers' struggles this season, and the players brought in to replace the fallen simply haven't been up to the task. Season-ending ailments to Prince Fielder (herniated disc in his neck) and Mitch Moreland (left ankle) have forced Texas into a first-base rotation of Brad Snyder (82 OPS+ so far this season) and 36-year-old retread Carlos Pena, who was signed off the scrap heap on June 17. In the rotation, meanwhile, the likes of Colby Lewis (71 ERA+), Nick Martinez (87) and Joe Saunders (78) haven't picked up the slack for Matt HarrisonDerek Holland or Martin Perez.

1. Oakland Athletics

PREVIOUS: 1

RECORD: POINTS180

Low Vote: N/A

2. Milwaukee Brewers

PREVIOUS: 2

RECORD: POINTS172

Low Vote: 4th

3. Los Angeles Angels

PREVIOUS: 4

RECORD: POINTS164

Low Vote: 6th

4. Los Angeles Dodgers

PREVIOUS: 7

RECORD: POINTS163

Low Vote: 5th (2x)

5. Detroit Tigers

PREVIOUS: 8

RECORD: POINTS155

Low Vote: 9th

6. San Francisco Giants

PREVIOUS: 3

RECORD: POINTS149

Low Vote: 8th

7. Seattle Mariners

PREVIOUS: 11

RECORD: POINTS143

Low Vote: 8th (3x)

8. Atlanta Braves

PREVIOUS: 14

RECORD: POINTS133

Low Vote: 12th

9. Washington Nationals

PREVIOUS: 9

RECORD: POINTS131

Low Vote: 11th

10. Cincinnati Reds

PREVIOUS: 15

RECORD: POINTS128

Low Vote: 12th

11. Toronto Blue Jays

PREVIOUS: 6

RECORD: POINTS124

Low Vote: 12th

12. St. Louis Cardinals

PREVIOUS: 5

RECORD: POINTS118

Low Vote: 16th

13. Baltimore Orioles

PREVIOUS: 10

RECORD: POINTS104

Low Vote: 15th

14. Kansas City Royals

PREVIOUS: 12

RECORD: POINTS102

Low Vote: 16th

15. Pittsburgh Pirates

PREVIOUS: 16

RECORD: POINTS96

Low Vote: 18th

16. New York Yankees

PREVIOUS: 13

RECORD: POINTS93

Low Vote: 18th

17. Cleveland Indians

PREVIOUS: 18

RECORD: POINTS79

Low Vote: 19th (2x)

18. Miami Marlins

PREVIOUS: 17

RECORD: POINTS78

Low Vote: 20th

19. New York Mets

PREVIOUS: 21

RECORD: POINTS67

Low Vote: 22nd (2x)

20. Boston Red Sox

PREVIOUS: 20

RECORD: POINTS66

Low Vote: 23rd

21. Chicago White Sox

PREVIOUS: 24

RECORD: POINTS61

Low Vote: 26th

22. Minnesota Twins

PREVIOUS: 19

RECORD: POINTS51

Low Vote: 25th

23. Colorado Rockies

PREVIOUS: 22

RECORD: POINTS48

Low Vote: 28th

24. Texas Rangers

PREVIOUS: 23

RECORD: POINTS42

Low Vote: 25th (2x)

25. Chicago Cubs

PREVIOUS: 27

RECORD: POINTS36

Low Vote: 28th

26. Houston Astros

PREVIOUS: 26

RECORD: POINTS32

Low Vote: 27th

27. Tampa Bay Rays

PREVIOUS: 28

RECORD: POINTS29

Low Vote: 29th (2x)

28. San Diego Padres

PREVIOUS: 29

RECORD: POINTS18

Low Vote: 30th (2x)

29. Philadelphia Phillies

PREVIOUS: 25

RECORD: POINTS17

Low Vote: 30th (2x)

30. Arizona Diamondbacks

PREVIOUS: 30

RECORD: POINTS10

Low Vote: 30th (2x)